Honored Guests, Peace Corps staff and Volunteers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great pleasure for me to be here today to launch another generation of Peace Corps Volunteers in Namibia — Americans ready to give of themselves to work alongside Namibians as equal partners in pursuit of shared goals. I am proud, as the United States Ambassador, to preside over this ceremony.
I want to acknowledge our Namibian colleagues with us today – government officials, counterparts, and Peace Corps staff. Thank you for joining us to give an official welcome to our new Peace Corps Volunteers. The success of our collaborative efforts in the field depends on the cooperation and support we receive from the Namibian government, and I would like in particular to thank the Ministry of Education and the Directorate of Libraries for their commitment to the success of Peace Corps in Namibia.
I’d also like to thank the local officials who work with our Peace Corps staff and Volunteers on a daily basis in the conduct of their projects – the police, local government officials, and traditional authorities – for everything they do to help our Volunteers have a safe and productive experience in Namibia.
Finally, I want to thank the families, neighbors, teachers, and community representatives who help our Volunteers to understand Namibia’s diverse cultures and traditions and languages. Many of you have worked alongside us for years and we deeply appreciate your commitment to making Peace Corps a success in Namibia.
To our new Volunteers, let me say simply: congratulations. By chance – and fortunately for us – you are all experienced Volunteers. You know the potential to extend your influence for benefit of people who want your expertise and who appreciate your willingness to share it. You represent the very best that America has to offer: a visionary spirit that can lead to a more prosperous Namibia.
You have chosen public service and you have chosen Namibia. Many of you have left behind jobs, family, and friends but you had the strength to imagine that you had more to give. You may not, as you sit here today, recognize what the realization of your vision will be. Your vision will evolve as you listen to the needs of your communities. But I know that you will all strive to define and to achieve your vision.
Much will be asked of you. It may sound like a cliché, but you will be our ambassadors in the field. For most of the Namibians you will meet and interact with, you will literally be the United States of America. You represent the ideals that Americans cherish as a nation: the freedom to choose how we want to live our lives, tolerance for diversity, and respect for the opinions of others. You also represent the friends and family who shaped you, mentors and role models who inspired you. For all of the young Namibians with whom you will interact, professionally and socially, be the role model they seek. Remember that through your behavior, through the decisions you make, you will be modeling the United States for the Namibians you live and work with.
Peace Corps service is an undertaking worthy of your best effort. You join the legacy of partnership and friendship between Americans and Namibians that took root in the first days of Namibia’s independence. Since 1990, more than 1,500 volunteers have served in Namibia, working together with their Namibian counterparts in education, health, small enterprise development and promotion of entrepreneurship. Since 2004, the Peace Corps has also played a key role in the United States’ effort to support Namibia in its fight against HIV/AIDS. Today, the Peace Corps operation in Namibia continues to be a vibrant and dynamic program with more than 130 Volunteers serving throughout the country.
The interaction between Volunteers and Namibians is indeed an equal partnership founded on shared goals and a genuine respect for what each partner contributes toward the vision. I look forward to visiting with you Volunteers around the country in six months, to celebrate with you what I know you will accomplish in Namibia. Thank you.